Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
April 16, 2009

Natural Headache Remedies

By Mark Sisson
34 Comments

Months ago, we discussed natural alternatives to OTC pain relievers. Now, before you assume I’m some hippie snake oil peddler, mine is not a blanket, ideological opposition to pharmaceuticals; rather, it’s just that if there are more natural, cheaper, less intrusive ways to relieve pain, why not try them first?

But that last post was just about general pain relief. What about headaches? Nearly everyone gets them on occasion, and they’re seemingly common enough to warrant entire advertising campaigns revolving around their treatment. One of the natural pain relievers we previously noted was willow bark, which is chemically similar to aspirin. That’s an option for headaches. Magnesium, we said, is used to alleviate migraines, which are an especially painful form of headaches. Those are two common treatments, but surely there are other substances, methods, or solutions out there.

First, let us determine the different types of headaches and their causes.

Primary Headaches
These include migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. We’ve discussed migraines extensively before, so I’ll focus on the other two.

Tension Headaches
The most common headache, tension headaches affect most people (some suggest up to 90% of adults will or do suffer from them). Most are centered around the base of the skull, the temple areas, or the forehead. The exact causes aren’t really understood, but a growing theory is that stress – physical, emotional, work-related, or otherwise – is the culprit. Tension headaches usually aren’t debilitating, but they’re certainly annoying (and ubiquitous). Fatigue and depression are also possible causes.

Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches attack in, well, clusters of two. They typically focus around the eyes, and they can persist for up to an hour and half. Once again, an exact cause hasn’t been identified, but brain scans on patients suffering from cluster headaches reveal abnormal activity in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for regulating our internal clocks. Although normal headache treatments (like OTC pain relievers) are generally ineffective, abnormal sleep patterns have been fingered as a possible cause. Hmm, imbalances in internal clock brain chemistry stemming from inadequate sleep might cause health issues? Sounds familiar.

Secondary Headaches
Secondary headaches are generally more severe and alarming than primary headaches. They usually stem from a trauma, injury, or a serious systemic issue – like tumors, meningitis, high blood pressure, dehydration, even stroke (among many). These are serious, but they usually don’t affect huge numbers of people. If you’re getting headaches because of a serious medical condition, chances are you’re already aware of it.

Solutions

So what can we do about headaches?

Well, there are always OTC pain relievers – stuff like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen. These can give short-term relief, but there are definite drawbacks. Aspirin and ibuprofen can irritate the stomach and cause bleeding. People on blood thinners might want to be use caution, lest they trigger a massive bleed-out session. Acetaminophen is particularly hard on the liver, and people who drink a ton or have significant liver damage run the risk of exacerbating the situation to dangerous levels if they use acetaminophen (as if liver damage and alcohol abuse weren’t bad enough). And of course, like all medications, over-reliance on OTC pain relievers to get over headaches can lead to increased recurrence of the symptoms when you’re not taking the drugs. It’s almost like withdrawal. You’ve grown to depend on the drug for pain relief; when you don’t have the drug, the pain comes back.

As stated before, there are more natural treatments (like willow bark for normal headaches or magnesium for migraines).

Feverfew
Feverfew is an herb commonly used by headache sufferers. It acts by limiting the production of prostaglandins, the brain chemicals responsible for contracting blood vessels. The contraction and expansion of the blood vessels are thought to cause the “pounding” that typifies many headaches, and feverfew seems to reduce it. It’s natural, but – as with OTC pain relievers – suddenly discontinuing its use after habitual ingestion can lead to more headaches.

Acerola Cherry
The acerola cherry is a Latin American “super fruit.” It’s loaded with all the antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients typical of most berries, but it also contains high levels of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are thought to be anti-inflammatories similar to aspirin and ibuprofen, which are known to relieve headaches.

Massage
Easier if you have a willing partner, but head massages can be self-applied. Strong pressure at the source of pain seems to have a reducing effect. If you have a partner, have them press on either side of your head with their palms, like they’re trying to crush a melon. If the pain’s located in the temples, rub them. If it’s just sort of all over the head, palm the top of your head and massage and squeeze the scalp.

De-stress
Stress is a common – probably the most common – cause of headaches. Have a glass of red wine (but not too many, unless you want another kind of headache) and relax. Take a nap. Stress caused by lack of sleep can cause headaches (especially cluster headaches). Run a bath. Read a book. Spend quality time with your loved ones. Get some intense exercise and let those endorphins flow. Get a massage (again); it will offer double relief – physical and mental.

Prevention

Prevention is, as always, the best way to stop a headache. If you aren’t suffering yet, you’re doing something right, but it’s best to shore up your success. Avoid stress. Eat Primal foods. Avoid pro-inflammatory grains and sugars. Follow the 10 Laws of the Primal Blueprint and get plenty of sleep and leisure time. Play games. Go on hikes. Enjoy life and live well, and I think you’ll find headaches to be a thing of the past.

I’m sure there are dozens of other herbs or natural remedies out there. I’d be interested to know about them, but if you’re following the Primal Blueprint in all its facets – diet, activity, exercise, leisure, sleep, stress prevention – I think you’ll find them to be highly unnecessary.

Further Reading:

7 Steps to Beat Stress Right Now

Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good

Go Primal in 2009

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

34 Comments on "Natural Headache Remedies"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Adam Steer - Better Is Better
7 years 5 months ago

The last point, prevention, is huge. I used to get mind-splitting headaches when I was younger. Ever since I migrated to mostly whole foods (primal/paleo style) it is very rare for me to get a headache at all.

Great post.

Cheers,
Adam

iMacker
5 years 5 months ago

For people suffering with migraines assure me you will not use any more medication. Instead read this http://surreystore.com/Forums/biology/migraine-pain-relief-the-natural-way/

Nicole
Nicole
7 years 5 months ago

I agree with you there, Adam. And can we throw meditation into the de-stress category? Taking a planned 15 minute break in which you don’t worry about the 287 things taking up your day that are causing the headache in the first place!

Jim Glinn
7 years 5 months ago

Mark,

You forgot to mention all of the evidence for the use of appropriate physical therapy in the treatment of what you note as “tension headaches.” I would be happy to share the peer viewed research with you! Drop me a line and I will get you the info.

Jim Glinn, PT, DPT, OCS

Donna
Donna
7 years 5 months ago

I’m very fortunate that i do NOT get headaches. All my life i’ve been highly active with sports, till this day i still exercise, eat right, get my hours sleep i need and i just don’t have them!

Holly
Holly
7 years 5 months ago

i think it’s amazing how much massages can help get rid of headaches. coming from a constant headache and migraine sufferer, i appreciate this list and the link back to the migraine page.

riceball
riceball
7 years 5 months ago

I’ve NEVER had headache in my life!
Hope it never finds me 😉

Marci
Marci
7 years 5 months ago

I’m a big fan of high quality, theraputic -grade essential oils, and use them when I get headaches (I live in NYC, and work in sales- the occasional headache is inevitable for me).I will dab a blend of blue tansy/ romam chamomile and/ or peppermint on accupressure spots behind my ears when headaches happen. That seems to help mitigate them quickly. And weekly accupuncture helped my migraines-they have totally ceased.

Kara
7 years 5 months ago

Peppermint. For many people smelling peppermint really helps a headache. Dab a little peppermint oil on a tissue or cottonball. Or, even better if you have a sinus or allergy related headache, make a cup of hot peppermint tea and breathe in the minty steam from the cup.

It’s an old herbal remedy, but it really does work.

Michelle
7 years 5 months ago

Since going primal I rarely have headaches and I was a sufferer of several times per week so that’s such a nice relief for me. I still will get them if I stay up past midnight I’m guaranteed to wake with a terrible headache.

Hillary
Hillary
7 years 5 months ago
You have some great suggestions for relieving headaches. One very different method which I find works very well is to press on the LI4 acupressure point which is at the base of the web-like skin between the thumb and the forefinger (or index finger). Press firmly by using the same fingers of the opposite hand but don’t pinch the skin – press deep into that ‘V’ area, angling toward the thumb. This is very good for tension headaches and you will find that one of your 2 hands is extremely tender or sore in that spot – that is the… Read more »
Andy Fossett
7 years 5 months ago

Caffeine works too. I very, very rarely get headaches, but any I’ve had over the past few years have been easily cured with a cup of coffee. Admittedly, this is probably not a good solution for those headaches caused by stress, as you pay for the capillary dilation with elevated cortisone.

darcey blue
7 years 5 months ago
Yup, a lot lot of folks get chronic headaches and migraines from a food allergy. Dairy products, and sometimes the grains are a direct line to the headache city. Remove the offending food, go on a primal diet, and the issue resolves. Magnesium is great for some headaches, I have also found that a HOT HOT foot bath with a cool cloth on the forehead is a very good treatment for Throbbing, full vascular headaches. There are a lot of herbs much better than feverfew for headaches, but again it really depends on the type of headache for sure. I… Read more »
Rachel
Rachel
7 years 5 months ago

Try a Neti Pot for sinus headaches and general cleaning. I used one today for the first time and it got rid of my sore throat of all things along with the buildup in my head.

Don’t psyche yourself out when using one though – it does feel weird. My fiance tried it and was so nervous he ended up throwing up all his dinner in the sink.

greg g
7 years 5 months ago

i’ve not gotten a headache since I started seeing a “nucca” chiropractor (they deal only with the cervical spine). My “atlas” vertebrae (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_(anatomy) – w/f/s) was knocked back and to the right. The chiro is working on getting it straight again.

Another guy I spoke to has had the same experience. These are anecdotal stories, but if your insurance covers the procedure, might be worth tracking one down.

Sara
Sara
7 years 5 months ago
One more testimonial for magnesium as a headache remedy: my son (11) was having migraines, usually mild but almost a daily occurrence and occasionally severe, and after months of logging food intake, weather, activity, and all kinds of common triggers, we were just about to start trying drug therapy (because, although mild, they were reaching the point of interfering with his school work) when I read that (1) magnesium deficiency is extremely common and (2) it’s a potential migraine trigger. I’ve added a daily magnesium supplement to his routine, and the headaches stopped within 3 or 4 days. It’s been… Read more »
Heather
Heather
7 years 5 months ago
I get a lot of tension headaches, to the point where I can tell what area is triggering the headache. It’s often the spot where my neck & shoulder meet (BIG knots in there) or the base of my skull. Generally speaking, rubbing these areas with a lot of pressure gets rid of the headache. If it’s really bad, like the pain is extending all the way down my neck & under my shoulder blades, I’ll lay on the bed with my head just barely off the side. I slowly inch down, letting my head fall further off. I hold… Read more »
trackback

[…] Mark’s Daily Apple provides some natural headache remedies. […]

Ken
Ken
7 years 5 months ago

Several years ago I found the solution to my migraine headaches. Other symptoms included: chronic fatigue, nausea, mood swings, and a neck rash! The solution? Dump the MSG and similar hidden ingredients (too many to list)! Thank you, thank you, thank you to http://www.truthinlabeling.org! They are life savers.

Lisa
7 years 4 months ago

Dr. Darvish, ND, recommends a grapefruit. Check her blog on headaches at http://www.truthbehindyourpain.com. Many headaches come from lack of a liver enzyme.

trackback

[…] inconclusive, or unclear, the vast amount of anecdotal evidence from people linking aspartame to headaches, migraines, panic attacks, and other maladies gives me great pause. I mean, the stuff tastes […]

Rachel
Rachel
5 years 2 months ago

Thank you for this article, really helpful! I have only recently started getting headaches. They started as soon as i moved back to the States so i figure it may be linked with the pollution levels here. It has been hard for me to deal with the head pain because my stomach is too sensitive for many OTC pain relievers and because the pain radiates through my jaw which makes eating a not-so-fun experience. Hopefully these natural options will work more in my favor!

blood pressure close together means?

I do accept as true with all of the ideas you have introduced in your post. They are really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for newbies. Could you please prolong them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

Frankie
Frankie
4 years 7 months ago

Oh I didn’t really help sorry

Brandon
Brandon
4 years 2 months ago

Headache Sufferer for as long as I can remember. 400mg of Magnesium and Riboflavin seem to do the trick, although expensive. 5 months ago I switch to HeadacheFree Vitamins, working amazing so far.. Knock on wood.

Rachel
Rachel
3 years 10 months ago

Please can you suggest natural remedy for headaches and nausea, i get from 10 to 17 a month, have tried everything, they usually wake me up in the small hrs and last all day or even 2. Had them for 9 yrs and am fed up with life

Crystal
Crystal
3 years 2 months ago
Rachel- This isn’t very timely and I hope your headaches have resolved since you posted but it sounds a lot like cluster headaches. The physiology of a cluster headache is very different from a tension headache or a migraine. The nighttime waking is the reason they are often called “alarm clock headaches”. You will usually feel the pain most intensely behind an eye or on one side of the head. It will rarely change sides. Most people do not respond to pain killers, even narcotics, although the pain is intense. Since CH (cluster headache) is so disruptive and painful, you’ll… Read more »
trackback

[…] Headache Naturally Tips to Cure Headache Naturally Natural Relief From Headaches, Even Migraines Natural Headache Remedies Headache Relief Naturally – No More Drugs! Acupressure Points for Relieving Headaches and […]

trackback

[…] Natural Headache Remedies | Mark’s Daily Apple […]

trackback

[…] Natural Headache Remedies Some headaches are caused by dehydration, and can be cured simply by drinking more water. […]

trackback

[…] Natural Headache Remedies […]

Rehan
2 years 9 months ago

I hate aspirin when I have a headache. Instead of taking a aspirin, I prefer to get some sleep.

Jeevan Thapa
Jeevan Thapa
2 years 7 months ago

i get long term headache since last 4 years.sometime i get relief from this but not as permanent way.Now i get more frustration n sometime cant sleep due to loosing confidence and became more weak.whats the solution of the problems please help me.

Angela
Angela
1 year 8 months ago

I’ve had migraine headaches for 8 years since my car accident. My neurologist told me I needed drugs and I could not work. After just three weeks treatment by Dr. Groman, I am now headache free and I can be a person again! Check out Abundant Health Chiropractic Center in Boca Raton, FL at http://www.drgroman.com

wpDiscuz